Guitars and Airlines

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by 335guy, Jan 25, 2012.

  1. 335guy

    335guy Member

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    WWYD ? I need to travel cross country by air. I'm taking a couple of guitars. One will be my ES-335. It's a RI from '97, so it's not super valuable but I can't afford to have it damaged. Will it survive being checked with baggage in it's factory hardshell case? I'll detune the strings and add extra cushion and support for the headstock. I really cannot afford an anvil flight case for it. What are the limits of the airlines responsibilities? Any ideas, tips or experiences ?
     
  2. lukeII

    lukeII Supporting Member

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    I have brought 6 guitars from Europe to Hong Kong with connecting flights using the method you describe (including a Les Paul and Collings 335) there were no issues. So long as the hard case is decent, you loosen the strings and provide some cushioned support for the headstock you shouldn't have any issue.
     
  3. Bhodie

    Bhodie Member

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    You answered your own question when you said you cannot afford to have it broken. NEVER check a guitar unless it is in a TSA approved anvil case that will survive a 20 foot drop on to concrete.

    If you have status with the airline, get them to put it in the first class closet.
     
  4. guitarz1972

    guitarz1972 Member

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    ^ THIS. I don't know the deal on insuring gear for airline travel (if they even have it, how expensive it is, etc.), but I personally would not risk a guitar in a "factory hard shell." As said above, if it's not TSA approved ATA stuff, you're just taking a chance. I would automatically assume it ends up in the hands of a boneheaded TSA guy who throws it around and at least damages up the case. A guy at my local guitar shoppe once told me he's "seen it" himself, and the airlines basically do not care about your precious cargo. At all.
     
  5. 335guy

    335guy Member

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    Thanks guys. I traveled by air back in the 70's and we often checked guitars through baggage. While my electrics never got damaged, my Martin did a few times. I've seen the way baggage handlers handle baggage. I just wondered if it has gotten better or worse over time. I just found this little bit of info and now I wonder if anyone has done this. This letter says the flying public has the right to bring on board musical instruments as long as they'll fit in the overhead storage compartment. I think I'll contact the airline and question them about this. Here's the link:

    http://www.indie-music.com/downloads/AFM_carryon.pdf
     
  6. 335guy

    335guy Member

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    Good news. I found out guitars can be carried on board !
    From Continental Airlines.
    Musical Instruments

    We understand that the valuable and fragile nature of many instruments requires that they be treated with special care. Please help us to keep your musical instruments safe by following the guidelines below.
    Please make sure that each instrument is securely packed in a sturdy case. In addition, checked and carry-on stringed instruments should have the strings loosened prior to boarding or checking to protect the neck from damage.
    Carried on Board
    You can carry on one guitar or similar or smaller sized musical instrument, which will count as your one carry-on item. The musical instrument, which may exceed 45 linear inches, must be able to be stowed under the seat in front of you or in an overhead bin or another approved stowage location. If space is unavailable prior to departure, the item must be checked as baggage.
     
  7. chequepoint

    chequepoint Member

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    If they'll gate check it for you, you should be fine. You may be better off with a nice gig bag, as it takes up less space and doesn't give people the false sense of security that a hard shell might
     
  8. arthur rotfeld

    arthur rotfeld Member

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    Les Paul always checked his Les Paul in a regular case. It was beat to all hell, but he said, never a problem.

    Most airlines will let you bring a guitar in the cabin, though it will be considered your one carry-on. You can have "personal item" in addition.
     
  9. Demioblue

    Demioblue Member

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    Wrong. NEVER check in a guitar on a passenger flight. I'm in groundhandling, and you'll be amazed by what I've seen broken, though there are very very good reasons for it.

    Moving guitars? Use a professional courier, and don't skimp on the insurance.
     
  10. musicofanatic5

    musicofanatic5 Supporting Member

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    I have posted ad nauseum about guitars and air travel. Your statement of "I need to travel cross country by air. I'm taking a couple of guitars" seems so nebulous. Are you moving? Going to a gig? Ship 'em if you're moving.

    Regardless of the details: I think the loosening the strings concept is preposturous. Somebody convince me otherwise. Employ some sort of science if possible.
     
  11. Bhodie

    Bhodie Member

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    I actually subscribe to this theory myself, and I fly 40 weeks a year. Of course I have pretty good standing and am in first a lot, so no issues.

    To the idea that continental says they welcome instruments but that they have to fit an overhead our under the seat.... Get real. It will never happen. You will have to gate check, and you will not be prepared.
     
  12. Demioblue

    Demioblue Member

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    I could be wrong, but I think it's about the difference between a potentially warped neck and a potentially broken neck.

    If the strings are not loosened, then there's existing stress on the guitar neck. At 30,000 feet in the air, remember that the cargo hold is not temperature controlled, and the guitar becomes very cold. Therefore, a shrinking neck, with shinking strings, adding extra tension to an already tense neck might be more prone to damage? Cracking?

    Whereas a neck with no tension at all os free to comtract and expand according to temperatire with no directional pull to case it to potentially snap? Maybe in this case, the worse case scenario is natural warping of the neck due to moisture, while a tense neck would be more likely to snap?

    Everytime I buy a guitar any shop in Japan, and the store people know I'm taking a flight, they ALWAYS loosen my strings.

    I don't know, but that's my best guess.
     
  13. killermeteor

    killermeteor Member

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    You can always buy the guitar a ticket (full priced, of course) for its own seat on the plane.
    I flew from the southern US into Canada with my acoustic guitar as checked baggage- and it was in a SOFT SHELL cardboard case. It was risky, but no problems whatsoever.
     
  14. 335guy

    335guy Member

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    Well, you maybe right. However, it does say this:

    "or another approved stowage location"

    There are places in the plane that can fit a guitar besides the overhead bins. If I had a $300.00 + flight case, of course I'd use it. But this is for a performance ( I'm not moving cross country ). They may turn me down at the gate. I'll have to see. Shipping cross country is no guarantee either. I'm going for it. And plan on taking both pages printed out and handing to the folks at the gate.
     
  15. kernelsalonpas

    kernelsalonpas Member

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    other airlines are not so friendly. i hand carry my guitars and put them in the overhead bin.

    once i brought my LP in a lifton and placed it in the overhead cabinet. i said to myself if they bothered me with it i'm prepared to put up a fight.. lol.. or rather not bring the guitar at all...
     
  16. Bhodie

    Bhodie Member

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    That could certainly help. Also, if your plans are flexible, look at the seating charts and try to get an exit row and book on flights that are less crowded. It will help your chances.

    Ps. If it is for a performance, and you are a professional that will be doing this regularly. Bite the bullet one the case. It is as much part of your "tools of the trade" as any other piece of gear and not a place to skimp. And they last forever.
     
  17. 335guy

    335guy Member

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    Hey thanks. No, I HAVE to go on a certain day and return on certain day. I looked at photos of the over head bins that are on the plane I'll be on, and they look large enough for a guitar. So, I'm hoping to get it in an over head bin. But if it ends up in a closet with folding wheelchairs, that will be fine as well. And I hear ya about a good quality flight case. If I anticipate and/or am called upon to do much traveling, I will get a good flight case. This is a one time deal trip for right now. As I mentioned before, I USED to do a lot of touring and flying, but haven't done so for many years. Back then, some airlines would allow you to carry on your guitar and others wouldn't. There was no set policy. But now, it appears that TSA has required all airlines to allow musical instruments to be carried on board. AS for the reasoning behind loosening the strings, I got that from Gibson's website ( although I have always done that ). Guitars with pitched headstocks, like most Gibsons and many acoustics, there is a lot of stress on the neck right there where the nut is. That is a weak spot in the guitar. If the guitar a dropped and/or jarred badly enough, the tension of the strings contributes to the stress at that weak spot on pitched head guitars. I've had a Martin break two times at that spot. And the greater the string tension ( like if one is using heavy gauge strings ) the greater the stress and potential breakage. It could also cause the saddle to lift on an acoustic. At any rate, if you got a strat with light gauge strings, you probably don't need to do this. A Gibson or Martin, yeah, it would be a good idea.
     

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